Alginate-encapsulated producer cells: A potential new approach for the treatment of malignant brain tumors

F. Thorsen*, T. A. Read, M. Lund-Johansen, B. B. Tysnes, R. Bjerkvig

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


In recent years gene therapy has evolved as a new treatment for brain tumors, where genetically engineered cells can be used to deliver specific substances to target cells. However, clinical success has been limited due to insufficient gene transfer, lack of prolonged gene expression, and immunorejection of producer cells. These obstacles may be overcome by encapsulating producer cells into immunoisolating substances such as alginate. This may provide a stable in situ delivery system of specific proteins, which can interfere with tumor growth and differentiation. This article represents a fundamental study describing the in vitro and the in vivo behavior of alginate-encapsulated producer cells. The viability and cell cycle distribution of encapsulated NIH 3T3 cells was studied by confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) and by flow cytometry. The CLSM study showed a high viability of the encapsulated NIH 3T3 cells during 9 weeks in culture. The flow cytometric analysis revealed a change in cellular ploidy after 1 week in culture, with normalization in ploidy after 3 and 9 weeks. The production of the bacterial E. coli β-galactosidase in alginate-encapsulated BT4CnVlacZ cells was studied by x-gal staining, and the cells expressed prolonged β-galactosidase activity. H528 hybridoma cells producing monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against the human epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) were encapsulated in alginate, and the mAb release was determined. The release of mAbs stabilized around 400 ng/ml/h after 12 days in vitro. To actually demonstrate that alginate-encapsulated H528 cells potentially inhibit a heterogeneous glioma cell population, cell migration from human GaMg glioma spheroids was studied during stimulation with EGF in the presence of encapsulated H528 cells. The migration in vitro was totally inhibited in the presence of H528 encapsulated cells. Alginate beads with H528 cells were also implanted into rat brains, and after 9 weeks the distribution of mAbs within the brain was studied by immunohistochemistry. It is shown that the alginate entrapped H528 cells produce mAbs inside the brain for prolonged periods and that the mAbs are distributed within all CSF compartments. Encapsulated producer cells represent a potential delivery system for specific proteins to brain tumors. Different producer cells may be encapsulated in alginate to target phenotypic features and microenvironmental factors, which may influence the progressive growth of brain tumors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)773-783
Number of pages11
JournalCell Transplantation
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain tumors
  • Gene therapy
  • Producer cells
  • Sodium alginate


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